Yijun Liao’s photographs from her ‘Experimental Relationships’ series is a conceptual peek into her life with her partner, Moro. Like many people Liao believed that all relationships were essentially the same – the archetype, the stereotype, the everytype – a belief that is based on nothing more than perception. A fabrication that doesn’t exist yet is a yardstick from which our lives blossom and die.
As a Chinese woman Liao used to think she could only love someone who was older than her, more mature, who could be her protector, mentor, all round ‘man’. Then she met Moro. A Japanese guy who was five years younger than her. And everything changed. Her role changed, her perception of authority and power changed. This situation opened up a space for exploration and so began her ongoing photo series in which she would set up situations for herself and Moro to perform in. In the series the roles are often reversed, Liao is dominant, Moro subservient, sex and power is devolved to the woman. Here’s how she describes the series:
Why should a couple be a man and a woman? Why does man have to be a certain way? Why should woman be a certain way? I feel relationships are for more complicated and always changing, and it has lots of possibilities. So I began to think about the meaning of this relationship and experiment with it.
In this project I throw out questions and ideas about relationship. What will happen if man & woman exchange their roles of sex & roles of power. What this relationship does to man & woman? I also express my frustrations in a relationship, like the impossibility to find a soul-mate, the feeling of isolation & disconnection. Because my boyfriend is Japanese, & I am Chinese. The project sometimes also describes a love & hate relationship.
She also adds the caveat that the project is an experiment and in no way is a document of their relationship. Moro is both a collaborator and inspiration, he is a partner in the project.